In the summer of 1985, our friends in the Napa Valley Theater
Company suggested doing a production of Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” for a short run in our AAA Studios
in San Francisco. The great performer sk dunn was playing Winnie
and our friend Dan Woodworth was Willie.
I always think back to Rhoda Eland’s great
performance in Seattle at the Ensemble Theater, directed by Dale,
and of Winnie, sitting in the big pile of garbage I had created for
her, and Dale and I sitting backstage alone, during the small
houses and the long rainy nights and whispering backstage and Dale’s
decision to close the theater and Winnie’s long, sad monologue.
“Get through the day,
Winnie!” she calls out alone, to herself, slowly sinking out of
sight, “Get through the day!”
Helen Bergruen was doing the set and Russell was helping her adapt
the show to the studio. Well, he called me up and said Bill, I know what it should
look like but I have no idea how to do it. If I only had a little
sketch or something from you, you know, to give me an idea how to do
it, or such.
* * *
In the end it was a beautiful production and long remembered.
Though sk later belittled her performance, many people remember it
as one of the finest and most moving they had ever seen.
Russell said the
drawings were a big help and that people liked the set a lot.
Ah, the Theater!
* * *
Sometime later, sk wrote:
i never felt that i truly understood winnie.
safe to say that she was as far from being me as anyone could
finding myself in her situation,
the last thing i would ever do is try, valiantly, to 'keep my chin
up,' which i think is what winnie is doing.
she never complains, she fights off fear & self pity, she
prays, she sings and she tries to find the bright side.
how much further from me could she be?
she is also grateful to willie for his less than minimal
support and treats him with kindness and affection.
what a gal!!
* * *